If you get into a conversation with Tim Sosinski, be ready for a lot of action words. He frequently uses phrases such as “grab the opportunity,” “harness the energy of the market,” “maximize your give-back” or “work effectively.”
In both his professional and volunteer life, he has taken these phrases to heart. Sosinski is a principal at ARIUMae, a 20-person architectural/engineering/interior design firm in Columbia that he co-founded with Steve McLaughlin in 1988. His active approach has been demonstrated time and again, because he admits that ARIUMae is not your typical company.
For example, many firms — including ARIUMae — can point to the cutting-edge buildings they’ve constructed. But ARIUMae also can display its expertise in more unusual settings, such as the laboratories, SCIFs (sensitive compartmented information facility) and other unusual structures that are just a few of the challenging assignments the firm has taken on for clients that include large corporations, REITs and other major property owners.
“ARIUMae flies a bit below the radar,” noted Sosinski, “seldom seeking publicity or awards. We concentrate on technically difficult projects that demand innovative solutions.” This problem-solving philosophy also extends to his life outside work and led to his involvement with Leadership Howard County.
A Universe of Doers
Despite a busy schedule with a young family and a growing business, in the early ’90s, Sosinski was looking for ways to give back to the community. So he volunteered with the local food bank, administered by the Howard County Community Action Council (CAC). While working at the food bank, he noticed some areas where a few layout changes would be useful. He prepared a sketch and then helped make it happen. His action-oriented mentality and willingness to lend a hand were noted, and he was asked to serve on the CAC board, eventually becoming its president.
It was during his time on the CAC board that he learned about Leadership Howard County and was invited to become part of the class of 1996. Sosinski described the experience as “fantastic” and feels that it was “the launching pad for my volunteer career.”
Because of his background with commercial properties and his familiarity with housing issues, his “volunteer career” led him to the Columbia Housing Corporation (CHC) in the mid-’90s, where he served in many roles. Then, seven years ago, he was asked by the Howard County executive to serve as one of the chairs of the Affordable Housing Task Force.
Sosinski noticed that several groups were each advocating for a narrow piece of the housing puzzle. To help address the general lack of below-market-rate housing in Howard County, he established a plan to pull disparate elements into a unified whole. Eventually, the broad-based Full Spectrum Housing Coalition was born.
Because of efforts of the coalition working with the county council, a $43 million housing trust fund is now included in the Downtown Columbia zoning legislation. This fund is a market-based, innovative way to help fill the housing gap for upwardly mobile workers (those in the $40,000–$60,000 family income range) who want to stay in the county as they climb the economic ladder.
Sosinski feels that his participation in Leadership Howard County has helped him, and many others, accomplish a great deal in the community. “They provide you with a great education about the county and,” he stressed, “you meet a universe of doers.”
That “universe of doers” goes far beyond his class, he noted. “The great thing about Leadership Howard County is that they’re constantly bringing in new participants.” And each of those individuals brings his or her own distinctive talents and energies to help the county address a variety of issues.
Ready to Pitch In
Fifteen years after graduating from Leadership Howard County, it’s obvious Sosinski is still dedicated to the organization and impressed with what its alumni accomplish. He admits to being “ready to pitch in” if he is asked, and it’s obvious he means it, since he was willing to briefly interrupt a vacation in Hawaii to discuss the group.
“When you participate in this association,” Sosinski explained, “you’re seen as someone looking beyond monetary goals and as someone who gives back to your community.” That’s one of the reasons he remains committed to the group. While many organizations host networking events and countless ways exist to change the community for the better, Sosinski is convinced that Leadership Howard County combines an effective blend of education and leadership training to guide future county leaders to where they will have the most impact.
When it comes to those future county leaders, Sosinski has this advice for them. “If you’re fortunate enough to be considered for this organization, grab the opportunity,” he said.
So, for anyone who wants to roll up their sleeves and find ways to get involved, the opportunities are there for the taking. As Sosinski pointed out, Leadership Howard County is “a great way to be effective in volunteering.” He should know. Years later, he’s still an active participant who continues to build partnerships, raise awareness and pitch in when needed.